Water in Global Agrifood Chains

Food production requires water. The water that is used to produce a certain food item can be considered “virtual water” embodied in the product. Virtual water can be used to calculate the “water footprint” of a person or a nation. When food is traded through international agrifood chains, virtual water is exported and imported. John Anthony (Tony) Allan proposed examining the import of food as a possible policy instrument to support food security in countries where there is water scarcity. Instead of producing their own food, water-scarce nations could import food (and thus “virtual water”) rather than developing or depleting their own water resources. Virtual water trade can also potentially save water—from a global perspective—if production is shifted to countries with higher water productivity.

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